Tips to Save Money, Time, and Space for the Sewist

This post is just a general list of tips to help you save some money, time, and space in your sewing room, both in the short and long-term. Some of these are a combo of time, money, and space savers/storage solutions! A lot of this assumes you’ve already amassed the terrifying amount of Stuff most folks who sew have, so may not be practical if you’re just starting out.

  1. Make or purchase a table-top pressing board. If you only need to press small items or make bias tape and so forth, it’s much faster than pulling out the ironing board and going back and forth. You can make your own in your desired dimensions using a scrap of 1/2″ plywood, a heavy-duty stapler, scrap/leftover cotton* batting, scrap/leftover insulated batting such as Insul-Brite, and scrap/leftover cotton fabric (quilting cotton, cotton duck, cotton decor fabric). Simply pull the staples and replace the outer cotton layer once it gets too stained or worn.

    *As your board must be able to withstand high heat and probably steam, it is important to ONLY use cotton fabrics and batting. Polyester and blends WILL melt and damage more easily, potentially ruining your iron and/or your project.

    Another word of advice would be to place a towel or something underneath to protect your table top or cutting mat surface, as the heat WILL still transfer through and can damage some table materials or cause cutting mats to warp.

    If you have friends or family members who work in construction, ask them if they have any leftover plywood from jobs you can have!

  2. A good steam iron is expensive, but will last for decades if you take care of it! Many of these can also be used on a stand-alone garment steamer.

    This includes:

    • ONLY using distilled water to fill the tank (this will help prevent calcium and other mineral build up that can be found in regular tap water, especially if your water is hard or you’re running from a well)
    • Emptying the tank when storing.
    • Periodically cleaning the ironing plate to remove any stuck-on glues and so forth. A cost-effective way to do this is to run your iron over a dryer sheet a few times–it’s pretty effective at removing stuck on scorch marks and glues.
    • Periodically cleaning out the inside of your iron by filling the tank with a mixture of distilled water and distilled white vinegar, then running it over your ironing board on the highest steam setting until the tank is empty. If your iron has sprayer and steam-puff buttons, make sure to use those as well.
  3. Have an unruly collection of trims, cords, and tapes, or need to store large amounts of tapes you’ve made?
    • The cardboard from cereal boxes is wonderful for making small “bolts” to hold your trims and tapes, as they can be cut to the desired size.
    • The cores from the rolls of plastic bags in the produce department of your local grocery store (or the cores of paper towel/toilet paper rolls, but these are more sturdy) are FANTASTIC for storing large amounts of cording/thicker trims. If you catch a produce clerk changing a roll (or happen to work in a grocery store), just ask if you can have them; most of the time they’ll give them to you.
  4. Have to put your ironing board in a really awkward space, because that’s the only way the iron will reach an outlet?

    Attach an indoor extension cord to your ironing board. That way you can place your ironing board somewhere more easily usable, and you can plug your iron right into the board. No more awkwardly trying to reach across and hoping you don’t yank out the cord!

  5. Use up ALL of your scraps and tiny off-cuts (“cabbage”) to make your own pressing tools
    • Pressing tools such as a tailor’s ham and sausage are quick, easy projects that you can use to recycle your tiny scraps and offcuts.
    • Patterns can be found online for the above tools.
    • Use only fabrics that can withstand a high heat and steam (such as cotton and linen) for both the outer layer and the inner stuffing.
    • Chop your cabbage up into tiny pieces (coleslaw!) for an easier time stuffing.
  6. Use your larger scraps to make tapes, braids, and appliques
    • It doesn’t take much fabric to make a lot of yardage! An 18×18 inch square of fabric will make just over four yards of 1/2″ double-fold bias tape (or 1″ single-fold), for instance, and much more for a smaller size. It’s a great way to use up pieces that are too small to really do anything garment-wise with but too large to feel good about throwing away. Google “continuous bias tape tutorial” for a quick and easy way to do this without cutting a whole bunch of individual strips of fabric and sewing them all together.
    • Braid or twist together long but narrow strips of fabric to make neat accent ropes and cords.
    • Have a scrap with a neat pattern or image? Use it to applique onto a project.
  7. If you’re making mockups/muslins/toiles prior to creating your finished garment, SAVE IT
    You can use it to either create the lining/interlining for that particular garment, or reuse parts of it for new mockups. Muslin is relatively inexpensive, but why not use what you already have?

There are roughly one million tips and tricks like this, but I’ll leave these here for now. Until next time, go forth and create!